Monday, May 11, 2015

Music: Barrington Levy, Reggae Crusader, Goes Unplugged

With the piquant flavour of Jerk Peanuts on the palate and the smooth musical elixir on the ear, ace vocalist Barrington Levy once again stamped his class on the aural landscape with an acoustic re-working of several of his best-loved tunes in a packaged dubbed "Acousticalevy". reporters, well-wishers and family - including toddler son Zeus, who added his own two cents to the show - turned out to witness the presentation of this latest recorded offering, under the auspices of Gary "Doctor Dread" Himmelfarb (who, as his recently published memoirs indicate, has himself built a considerable musical legend) and his label, Doctor Dread Presents (DDP), which supplants the well-known Real Authentic Sound (RAS) Records.

As the audience was reminded in the presentation, its far from the first time that Levy has gone the acoustic route. As evidence, there is "Vibes Right" (circa 1985) the atmospheric love song decorated by swirling keyboards and little other instrumentation from his richly creative earlier period .

Indeed, Levy has few peers (Ken Boothe comes to mind) and no superiors as a vocalist whose instrument can readily stand without accompaniment.

Observer writer Howard Campbell (who sat in on several of the recording sessions) guided the proceedings in his cheery yet laconic manner, wisely giving the airtime to Levy and Doctor Dread save for some well-prepared questions and interventions.

The artiste, whose previous presence at the South Beach venue saw him premiere a video for the track "Rosie" last year told media and well-wishers that he was past caring whether Jamaican radio stations afforded airplay or other attention, though he did later praise the media for covering his work and achievements

He was adamant however, that formal accolades from the  Jamaican industry had thus far been virtually non-existent. "I can say that I am among the artistes who continually uphold Jamaica, and I have never gotten a single award, but other artistes get the spotlight with certain things. Still, I don't work for award, I work for reward, and for me it's a joy to see people in som any countries lovin' this music and singin' these songs, then I know what I'm workin' for"

Opening with the scathing socio-political commentary of "Murdera", the 15-track compilation also includes such classics as "Prison Oval" (which levy revealed was not originally intended as a record, but actually a dubplate) "Here I Come" "Vice Versa Love" and this writer's favourite, "Things Friends"

Handel Tucker, and Levy himself handled the production work, with the likes of Lamont "Monty" Savory (guitars) and Stephanie Wallace (background vocals) also extensively featured. Also notable is the CD cover package, the graphics pleasantly reminiscent of the heyday of renowned jazz labels Prestige and Blue Note Records.

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